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Flaw in Florida E-Voting Machines 438

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like there are more problems with the new e-voting machines. How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"
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Flaw in Florida E-Voting Machines

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  • Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:04AM (#9412362)
    How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?

    By silencing anyone who talks about the flaws, of course! Do what I'm gonna do, bet money on bush being reelected. That way, if he is, at least it wasn't a total disaster.
  • by Manip ( 656104 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:06AM (#9412368)
    I want to know why these people have such trouble building a voting machine and the occupying software? I'm sure I speak for many many /. readers when I say that we could nock up the client and server in about an hour to forkful all the specifications and then spend the next hour bug fixing and then in the third hour get a cup of hot coffee! Morons
  • How will they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amiga Lover ( 708890 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:10AM (#9412377)
    How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"

    That's asking the wrong question! it's "How will the voters handle this?". Well, most will ignore it. They'll vote, and votes will be miscounted. Then someone will become president (exactly who doesn't matter). Then there'll be a small investigation into the voting failure, perhaps a story or two on slashdot, and then the country will keep on using them.

    People just aren't interested in a system that works any more. If they have something to complain about and go "oh did you hear the voting in florida was rigged!" it gives them 10 minutes of conversation around the watercooler, then they go ahead with their lives.

    Scuse the cynicism, but I suspect it's the most likely outcome
  • by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:14AM (#9412388)
    Everyone seems to be concerned about whether the voting machines are perfect. I think there's another, more important question: are they better than what we have now?

    Given the fiasco of the 2000 US presidential elections, I'd guess that it's possible for the machines to be both buggy and better than the alternatives.

    I think we should focus on getting something that works well. If we wait for it to be perfect, it's going to be an awfull long wait.

  • by Lord Grey ( 463613 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:23AM (#9412414)
    The machines, made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., fail to provide a consistent electronic "event log" of voting activity when asked to reproduce what happened during the election, state officials said.
    Emphasis mine.

    Considering that an electronic voting system is specifically designed to record and report voting activity, I'd say that a failure to do so consistently is more than a "minor technical hiccup" (as indicated by a spokeswoman for the secretary of state). An intermittent failure of a primary function is worse than an outright failure, as any programmer can tell you. Consider an intermittent failure of the brake system in your car....

    In a strange way, I almost welcome all this attention focused on electronic voting systems. After all, the companies building them are pretty much doing what most other software companies do: Throw it all together as quickly as possible and let marketing and sales push it out the door. These are simply "average" software products coming under greater scrutiny. Maybe by pushing better quality here, we can force improved quality in other products (great leap of the imagination, I know).

  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:24AM (#9412416) Journal
    I'm sure this has been covered repeatedly, but what's wrong with the UK system of 'put an X in the box by the candidate you want'. If counting time is a problem (IMO a hand count which anyone who feels like it is free to watch is a damn good thing, but anyway) then use those things they have for automatically marking exams, where you fill in the circle by the name you want and a machine scans them all - I know that's practically what this does but why put the mechanical element in there when it doesn't have to be. Seems like just another point for failure.
  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:28AM (#9412423) Homepage
    There is a working alternative.

    It's called pen and paper.

    It works. It leaves a paper trail for later recounts.

    It can be observed by everyone who is interested in the whole process, from printing the ballots to handing out the ballots, from getting the ballots back and counting them, from sealing the voting box to bringing it at the central voting office for recount, thus minimizing the possibility of rigging the election.

    It keeps the single vote anonymous while at the same moment make every vote count. It keeps the voting and counting process at a speed a human eye can watch it and thus it's the most secure thing against voting fraud.

    There is nothing wrong with voting per paper and pen. People not able to handle paper and pen have to get special support with all the other voting systems too. And you can easily design a voting machine that just pens the right point on the ballot for them. It's as complicated than a stancing machine with levers, a touchscreen or a device for people who can't see or read the ballot (noting wrong with Braille script on the voting ballot at all).
  • by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:28AM (#9412425)
    Oh, come on. The only thing that EVER kept voting even remotely fair was bi(or multi)-partisan supervision. This is implicit and understood by both major parties. There have been "shenadigans" for years by both parties.
    The idea has always been that the cheating would generally just even out.

    Machines are never going to insure accurate vote counting if the people reading off the numbers are corrupt.
  • by Spackler ( 223562 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:31AM (#9412434) Journal
    Really, I am confused. (according to the article, that I actually read for once) The only way to fix this is to hook up a laptop supplied by Jeb Bush to the machine, to have it verify what is happening? Yeah, much better than a hanging chad. Thanks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:33AM (#9412441)
    How can you count a "Missing" vote?
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:36AM (#9412451) Journal
    Because in an exam, you know better than to mark 2 circles, or no circles (if running out of time, mark all C's!) at all. If you do mark the wrong one - erase with eraser, mark the one you wanted.

    But this is voting.. arguably more important ..and people will mark more than 1 circle, will forget to mark altogether, or will find other ways to screw things up (break pencil tip, use up eraser end, who knows).
    And neither human counters, much less automatic counters, know what the voter actually intended to do.

    This as opposed to an electronic voting machine, where you :
    - must make a vote (even if it's an abstain vote)
    - can only vote once
    - get a clear and concise "did you really mean to vote for X ?" option to change your vote before actually submitting it.

    Which makes it very easy to
    - count the vote

    And that's all the machines really have to do!
    Writing a voting system that does this is stupendously trivial as far as the code goes. Which leaves me only baffled as to why there appear to be so many bugs with these voting machines to begin with.

    The only problem an electronic voting machine should have to face are human interface design issues, hardware issues, and the well-known papertrail issue.
    The first is the hardest, the second is trivial (backup machine, backup drive), and the third has been discussed to death on Slashdot and some good ideas were written down.
  • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:38AM (#9412458) Homepage Journal
    This weekend people in the EU went voting for parliament. Pen and paper. It just works.

    I haven't checked the numbers, but I'd guess that's more people than in an american presidential election.

    I'm just back from my "put an X in the box in front of the person you want to vote for" myself ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:38AM (#9412459)
    You have a nasty assumption that if it's not RED then it's always BLUE.
  • I just voted. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:39AM (#9412464)

    For the EU parliament. I went in, took a paper ballot, showed my voting card, recieved a small envelope, went behind the screen, used the pen there to check the box across my candidate on the ballot, put the ballot in the envelope, handed voting card and ballot in. Done.

    How the fuck could e-voting make this any faster/simpler? After all, counting the votes is a highly parallelizable task, so the fact that you have 10x or even 100x as many voters shouldn't matter in the least.

    All in all it took me ten minutes. No more, no less.

  • by mark_space2001 ( 570644 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:44AM (#9412473)
    I want to know why these people have such trouble building a voting machine and the occupying software? I'm sure I speak for many many /. readers when I say that we could nock up the client and server in about an hour to forkful all the specifications and then spend the next hour bug fixing and then in the third hour get a cup of hot coffee!

    Yeah, right. I'm sure that Diebold told themselves the exact same thing, and look what happened.

    The first thing to do would be to collect the requirements, which I think would take more than a couple of hours. It seems that this is the step Diebold missed, because a lot of their features seem tacked on like they didn't have time to implement them properly. That screams "last minute feature" to me.

  • Re:How will they? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doshell ( 757915 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:50AM (#9412488)
    People just aren't interested in a system that works any more. If they have something to complain about and go "oh did you hear the voting in florida was rigged!" it gives them 10 minutes of conversation around the watercooler, then they go ahead with their lives.

    True. I believe the problem is that people always seem to believe that the <irony>perfect democratic system</irony> they live in guarantees that someone above them (in the ladder of power) will fix any issue that may arise.

    Blind trust in the system, that's what I call it. Until everyone understands that it is essential in a democracy to make oneself heard on things that seem to be wrong, the system loses its benefits, and those who actually have the power on their hands win all the time.

    I know that many people do this; unfortunately, it seems that a large sector of the population doesn't, perhaps in hope that things will eventually be alright with no effort at all.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:54AM (#9412502)
    The truth is that this is not a technical problem it is a political one. Almost any dumbass can program a voting system in like 2 hours I put the first hour in photoshop making fancy graphics the next hour is in what you stated. But the government doesn't work like that this is what happends.
    1. A software company tries to push a solution to the government. (this could possibly be a good solution)
    2. The government takes it to a bunch of meetings. In these meetings there are a lot of different people in a failure driven work environment so if they did something wrong they get punish there is little reward for doing te right thing. As well there are different type of people who don't like each other so they will disagree with them and make their lives difficult.
    3. After these meetings there are now specs for a much more bloated and compplex program that they will ever need or have.
    4. Now the company looking at the specs seeing how big it has became now writes the bid for the government to use. Realizing that it is pollitically charged they will make it seem like a huge amount of work and write the bid so only they can use it.
    5. The government sends the bid out to all the competitors. But because the bid was so spacific to the company. The orginonal company wins the bid.
    6. The Company produces a Beta version of the program.
    7. Goto 2 and repeat

  • Source Code (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lff ( 119360 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:55AM (#9412503) Journal
    I guess it is too much to hope that the source code is publicly available, but really shouldn't it be?
  • by Radon Knight ( 684275 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:55AM (#9412504)
    Get over it, Al Gore lost. :-)

    You know, what pissed me off more about the last elections more than anything else was the whole attention to shut down debate over the process. I mean, here we had a seriously close election whose results turned on exactly who won in Florida, and the entire push was to settle the matter as quickly as possible rather than as accurately as possible.

    What was up with the entire "debate" over what kind of chad counted as a valid vote? If it was detached from 3 corners, it counted, but not if it was only detached from 2 corners, even if it was clearly the only candidate punched on the ticket?

    More seriously, the decision was made by a Supreme Court containing individuals who - in any other court in the country would have had to abstain from voting due to a conflict of interest. (Some of the Justices were nominateed by G.W.B.'s father, for Pete's sake.) Why wasn't there more attention given to that failure of the process?

    And, so, what I hate about the soundbite expression "Get over it, Al Gore lost" (although you did indicate that it was a joke - granted) was that it stopped debate and forced the result through.

  • Not Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:12AM (#9412543) Homepage Journal
    > They'll vote, and votes will be miscounted. Then someone will become president (exactly who doesn't matter).

    I think that votes get miscounted when parties use malicious practice by disqualifying entire races from voting just because their last name is the same as someone with a criminal record. This is what Dubya did to get elected, plus he used a lot of other crazy tactics to sway the vote.

    Voting machines could be a factor, but I think that the social engineering from parties needs to be quelled far before we worry about counts. Even recounts were suspended. So even an auditing system can't prevent social engineering by parties.

    The law isn't doing anything to prevent elections from being stolen. Their hands are tied because of bribes, mostly.

    You can have the perfect voting system but it doesn't count for anything if your country is lawless. A covenant without a sword is meaningless.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:18AM (#9412555) Homepage
    You'd think that a country who prides itself on democracy and tries to spread it throughout the world would be able to figure out something as simple as voting. We've never had problems like this in Canada. This whole punch card/e-voting/dress up like you who want to vote for thing really just makes things more difficult. Much easier just putting an X in the box next to the candidate. Hard to screw up that one.
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:45AM (#9412677)
    Didn't Diebold promise to deliver certain states to the Bush camp? Aren't they against verified e-voting? Huge conflict of interests abound, but no one will listen or do anything about it. The only place I have seriously seen this issue covered is on the internet, the only place that isn't owned by some big multinational that owns every news outlet, a l a Newscorp, Clear Channel, Viacom, etc. These past 4 years have seen more media consolidation than in the previous 100, IMHO. I bought a Palm Beach, Florida voting machine off of Ebay, when I got it, it looks exactly like our Virginia Beach voting machines. One badly designed ballot and suddenly we need to implement a whole electronic voting initiative? Sounds like fixing a symptom rather than the problem, non intuitive user interfaces. An electronic machine could just as easily create a confusing picture of the voting process.
  • E-vote is no good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elpapacito ( 119485 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:51AM (#9412702)
    Even if many like machines, because they relieve us of the burden of doing manual work, the relatively few ones
    that -actually know- how machines really work would rather work manually then let a machine decide the outcome
    of an election. I certainly do and I'm no luddite, on the contrary I call myself a computer geek ;)

    The facts are simple and important: computers can count very quickly, but they can be instructed to MIS-count exactly
    as fast
    . Computers can even be instructed to turn your YES into a NO and your NO into a YES. It requires only a click
    to turn 10 million votes from one candidate to another, regardless of what some self-declared "security expert" say about
    the security of well maintained and programmed computers.

    Hand counting of paper votes cannot as easily be corrupted. While with just one click you can tell computers to do anything
    but you can't corrupt a thousand people without having some of them understand that corruption in voting process is against
    democracry ; some will refuse to be corrupted, others will go to media and denounce the corruption..maybe nothing happens
    and the election is rigged...but some people still know and can still talk, and paper votes remain to be counted a dozen
    times if necessary (with and expecially without the help of a counting machine)

    It is also important to check that each and every voter is given his/her voting rights. One can't just trust computers
    to tell if a voter still have his/her rights or have lost it. With a simple click one could trick a computer into reporting
    that 10000 ex-inmates are still in prison, or that 100000 people are alive and should have voted, while in reality they're
    DEAD so they shouldn't be counted as voters to begin with.

    Here is an example with CASH MONEY. Do you like your dollar bills ? Do you like to hold your money in your hands, knowing that your
    money isn't going anywhere unless YOU decide to do something with it ? Indeed it's only a piece of paper, but a very
    important one. Imagine a world in which paper or metal money doesn't exist anymore ..would you trust banks/govts/corporations
    to have all your money in their hands, stored as numbers in their computers ? What if a black-hat hacker attacks their computers ?
    What if some corrupted individual working at a bank steals money from their computers, or simply -delete- your money from your
    account because he doesn't like you ? Why do you think that banks are still using PAPER to keep their records ?

    Fire can destroy paper money, you could lose it, anything could happen...so why do we keep money on paper with holograms
    and other forms of expensive protection ? Because one could falsify money, one could destroy it accidentally..but you can't
    destroy all the paper money with one click, you can't falsify all the money with one click, you can't take money away from
    population hands with one click without kick-starting a bloody revolution.

    Now back to vote : your vote is not money, but for some people it is more much more important then money. Why ? Because your
    vote will direct trillions of dollars and a lot of power to some hands, because your vote will elect a politician, giving
    him/her power to WAGE WAR in your name, to decide were tax money is going to be spent, to decide if a law needs to be changed
    for better or worse.

    Still want your vote and your voting rights to be counted or decided by a stupid computer ? I don't want humans to be taken
    away from the voting process in the name of "progress" or in the name of "savings". It's stupid, it's dangerous.
  • One recurring theme I've noticed in recent years is that the idea of a "conflict of interest" seems to be only a quaint saying that is rarely if ever applied to real world situations.

    Examples include Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State also serving [cbsnews.com] as George W. Bush's Florida Campaign Co-Chair, a bunch of oil industry executives deciding to annex on of the largest oil producing nations in the world, Cheney and Scalia going on hunting trips [cnn.com] while the Supreme Court decides cases involving Cheney, U.S. Senators owning voting machine manufacturers [blackboxvoting.com] and countless other incestuous links that even first year law students in the former Soviet Union would clearly recognize as causing the appearance of impropriety.

    I mean c'mon, if you're gonna fuck us, at least *try* to be subtle about it! Is that too much to ask?
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by foidulus ( 743482 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:56AM (#9412733)
    He won, get over it. Unless you happen to have some information that the US Supreme Court overlooked?
    Yeah, I have some, namely the fact that the supposed supporters of states rights won't let a state decide how to run it's election. The fact that the supreme court ruled on that at all is probably the grossest violation of the constitution I have ever seen. If you are going to support the electoral college, then at least allow the states the right to choose their electors.
    I guess ignoring the constitution before he took office was just a sign of things to come.
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a couple when you have a two party system. Those are the breaks.

    Feel free to waste your vote on third party candidates if you're feeling idealistic. I'd strongly suggest reading the history books first.

    This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, corrupt elections officials, incestuous links with corporate cronies. If you're using these numbers to run your country, you're fucked.

  • Re:Voter Purge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:11AM (#9412805)
    "Oh sure, rely on the independent to provide fair and balanced information."

    Are you saying this didn't happen in 2000? I said that the database company in charge of the purge, Choicepoint, has admitted to Congress that they did this. It was an open session so you it'll be pretty easy for you to walk into you local library and request a copy of the transcript. It occured on April 17th 2001.

    "What about all the democrat lawmakers trying to deflect all the overseas absenty ballots by the soldiers in foreign countries?"

    That old chestnut. The only absentee ballots that the democrats tried to have disqualified were those that had been printing errors on (in this case birthdates instead of voter IDS). The law states clearly that such ballots are to be voided immediately. However, at least 2,100 of these ballots were "corrected". If they had "corrected" all the ballots that were in error however, there would have been a lot more -- see if you can guess which group of ballots were counted and which group were voided.

    "Get your facts straight when you talk about our country, from our laws".

    Okay. The law in Florida states that you can't deny the vote to a former felon unless he was convicted in the state of Florida. Those 40,000+ voters were either (a) convicted in other state (b) had a name or birthdate that was merely similar to a convicted felon (whether or not they were convicted in Florida) or (c) just put on there for the sake (although being black was probably a good enough reason)

    The law, in fact the constituion, states that in the case of disputed presidential results, Congress must arbitrate the final decision. Why then did the SCOTUS decide? It's a flat out violation of constitional law.

    If you want to keep your finger in your ears then that's up to you but all of this is completely verifiable information, you just have to look for it because your "liberal" media simply isn't doing its job properly. Please wake up.
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:11AM (#9412806)
    "How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"

    Uh, they are ready...to steal the election for the Republicans this Fall. Its pretty obvious Jeb Bush wants to make sure there is no doubt Florida goes to his brother this time around, so he is dead set against making sure all the new electronic voting machines in his state are verifiable.

    The Bush administration has a really strong, or actually overwhelming, incentive to make sure they win. They have to white wash the investigation of who really authorized the use of torture in Iraq. All indications are that it was George W. Bush, General Myers, Rumsfeld and his deputy for military intelligence Steve Cambone under the top secret Copper Green [newsday.com] program. They might have got away with it for Al Qaeda since they are in a legal gray area and may not be under Geneva protections but authorizing torture in Iraq was a war crime under the Geneva conventions and the U.S. laws that enforce the Geneva rules. Its pretty obvious now it wasn't just a bunch of out of control reserve privates doing it on their own.

    If the Democrats were to win the White House or Congress and were to really pursue the investigation, which I'm not sure they would, you could see impeachment and senior members of the Bush administration and the military on trial for war crimes. If the Republicans win they can try to stop the blame and the damage at General Sanchez, and if they continue to control both houses of Congress, and they keep their party members in line they will probably succeed. I wager they are already engaged in massive paper shredding and deletion of top secret documents, especially after the leak of the Pentagon and DOJ memo's last week where it became clear the White House was trying, in vain, to establish a legal basis for the use of torture.

    If you saw Ashcroft's testimony before Congress last week, a rare event, it became pretty clear the Bush administration has decided they are at war and they can do pretty much anything they please, and unfortunately the "War on Terror" is unlikely to ever end.
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:15AM (#9412829)
    My dad is a senior reporter with a local NBC affiliate, and I've clued him in to quite a few stories about our current voting machines.

    His assignment editor, and more troubling, the News Director [Hi, Forrest!] have routinely ignored the story.

    Well, then since you have a connection AND an interest, do what's necessary to bring the two together and find a way to make the voting machine problems interesting to the general public. They ARE interesting to the general public, so this should be an easy task, you just have to show them where the attention-getting drama is.
  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:23AM (#9412868)
    India just had its national elections and *one billion people* voted electronically. Why don't the Florida authorities ask the Indian Government for advice? We've heard few complaints from India so I assume it must have been a pretty successful system (can anybody comment on this?).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:23AM (#9412870)
    If you lack the basic intelligence to figure out how to put an X next to your candidates name, correctly, an argument can be made you lack something basic needed to pick a candidate in the first place. I'm not entirely sure you should have to make voting so completely fool proof so that a chimpanzee could successfully vote if they were locked in a booth with an electronic voting machine for a few minutes and banged on it.

    The one exception is I think at least one electronic voting machine, with paper trail, should be at each poll to allow the disabled to vote without assistance.

    "Which makes it very easy to- count the vote"

    Making it "easy" to count the vote doesn't count for anything if it also makes it "easy" to rig the vote. I really like the fact that paper ballots allow a lot of little old ladies and gents to be involved in the process and make sure its on the up and up. You switch to computers and there is no one that can keep an eye on things except hackers.
  • How can you count a "Missing" vote?

    That's not as difficult as you may think: [go.com]
    "I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County," Hires wrote to officials of Global Election Systems, who had provided the county's optiscan ballots. "I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here 'looking dumb'."
  • by thepeete ( 189121 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:25AM (#9412884)
    Some people actually mark 0 or more than 1 candidates on purpose to cancel their votes. As for the others, if they can't figure out a (decently clear) electoral bulletin, maybe their vote not counting is not such a big loss.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:44AM (#9412967) Homepage
    The only thing that EVER kept voting even remotely fair was bi(or multi)-partisan supervision.

    And there's the rub, isn't it? What's the bi-partisan supervision going to look like with one of these machines? Representatives of both parties stand there looking at the computer while the tech pushes the "count votes" button? Doesn't sound very useful to me.

    Here's an observation: We know that in Florida Diebold machines gave Al Gore -15,000 votes. We know they screwed up in the California recall election, disenfranchising voters, and handing unusually high counts to minor candidates in counties far from their homes while the Lietenant Governor had substantially below his average. I'm not sure about the town where the vote totals were many times more than the actual population. We keep hearing about these machines screwing up. We have a company producing unverifiable machines -- and they know they are flawed but don't care -- and this company has close ties to the Republican party. Their machines have "oopsed" several times in favor of Republicans -- have they "oopsed" in favor of Democrats, or is this a one-way street of accidental errors?

    Basically, my question is: What, exactly, is supposed to even this out?
  • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @11:01AM (#9413053) Homepage Journal
    "The truth is that this is not a technical problem it is a political one. Almost any dumbass can program a voting system in like 2 hours I put the first hour in photoshop making fancy graphics the next hour is in what you stated. But the government doesn't work like that this is what happends.

    1. A software company tries to push a solution to the government. (this could possibly be a good solution)...."

    Thank you. I can attest that this is exactly how government works, particularly at the federal level. Which is why I take every opportunity to vote for less government rather than more. And yet, no matter how much evidence there is of governmental screw-ups I have to admit that the majority of Americans want MORE government, not less. What seems to matter to them are the good intentions of government rather than the bad outcomes. I suppose it is the same mentality that makes Microsoft so successful: We need more features NOW, we'll worry about debugging and security in the NEXT release. How ironic it is that so many people who speak out against bloated software are more than happy to vote for bloated government. In my mind the issues are the same, as are the results.
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @11:16AM (#9413138) Journal
    That's right, the global technical community. Slashdotters, open source advocates, programmmers abound.

    Let's set actual security aside for a minute. And lets set hardware drivers aside for a minute.

    How long would it take any child in a high school BASIC class to write a program which can print out selection menus and accept input variables that represent votes. How long to add accurate logging? 30 minutes? an Hour?

    Claiming these problems are all accidental might fly with the technically ignorant. But I'd be willing to bet at least 80% of those reading slashdot at this moment could write a program that was more functional without doing anymore debugging than it takes to get it to compile, and do in under an hour. Toss back in the drivers and I'd bet at least 60-70% of us could do it in less than a week, from top to bottom.

    I'd also bet with only that level of debugging we'd have it more secure than this is the first time around. And after a month of turning it loose on the open source community have it locked down so tight it would never actually be hack (of course we'd continue finding theoretical holes... there are always theoretically exploitable holes).

    The entire effort of commercial voting vendors insults the intelligence of programming everywhere. Diebold yes, but the rest of them as well. For god sakes the php webserver announced last night as simple as it was, was 1000x more complex than the software these guys are claiming they can't get right!!!!

    So my friends thats what we have, and we have to let the rest of the world know better. We at least have to try. Go pay a visit to your family, give them a call or what have you. Bring up this subject and explain how trivial and disgusting this is. It's starts there. Let all your friends know. Everyone in the world is supposedly linked by a small association chain, lets prove it.

    Don't waste time writting email and letters to bought and paid for congressmen who don't read them and send back cookie cutter responses. Tell the PEOPLE. Get press if you can. Send in letters to editor of the local paper, start with the small ones until it's so public the big ones have to carry it. Forget the government, outrage the PEOPLE.

    Now when 200+ million americans are pounding on their doors demanding open source voting software, THEN we'll see how long they throw up red tape.
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by espo812 ( 261758 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @11:42AM (#9413310)
    namely the fact that the supposed supporters of states rights won't let a state decide how to run it's election. The fact that the supreme court ruled on that at all is probably the grossest violation of the constitution I have ever seen.
    The SCOTUS said that Florida had to follow its own laws for elections (instead of ignoring their own laws and having recounts until Al Gore was satisfied.) What's so unreasonable about that?
  • Re:Voter Purge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @11:53AM (#9413390) Homepage Journal
    Voting is a priviledge, not a right. Otherwise, why not let non-citizens vote?
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Sunday June 13, 2004 @12:19PM (#9413520) Homepage Journal
    A paper receipt from a teller machine isn't worth the paper it's printed on, if it says they gave you $20 and the machine spit out $0.
  • Ya know, I followed your link, and the first blurb I read was the fact that on 9/10, George W. Bush was at a meeting with Osama bin Laden's brother. Seriously, WTF. bin Laden's family has publicly disowned him. What kind of moron does that website take me to be? Ted Kaczynski was turned in by his brother, surely we should put them both in jail, huh?

    I read a little bit further and it seems that the site is mildly informative, but still falls to the same pits of idiocy that always keep me from supporting the Democratic party. That pit is the belief that I'm some uneducated moron eager to be stuffed full with half-assed propaganda.

    Micheal Moore is a crackpot - I don't care what he has to say. Maybe he's right - but he's still a crackpot. He invalidates his message with his angle. He is the Democrat's Jerry Falwell. Falwell insists the world is 4000 years old, Moore insists that America is the great white satan. Pick your poison.

    The Democratic party will be in serious trouble over the next couple of years, I think. They aren't winning votes as much as they're picking up the votes that the Republicans lose. I'll be voting against Bush (ie for Kerry) rather than honestly choosing Kerry for president. I only hope that McCain will run in 2008 - that is the guy I want as a leader. The Democratic party really needs to work at winning votes from people who aren't swayed by radical tripe that Moore spits out - and realize that Moore just reinforces the Loser's Party mindset. That is to say that Micheal Moore is the epitome of preaching to the choir. Anyone who gives him any credit couldn't possibly be lost to the Republican party, meanwhile anyone with any sense sees him for what he is. When I read some "informative" stuff about the corruption in the Bush administration - and I'm sure there is a lot of it - I always find this half-assed conspiracy shit that belongs on some schizophrenic's homepage, and if that's how the party tries to win votes, God help them.

    And yeah, I know that these websites don't reflect the Democratic Party officially, but (to beat a dead horse) where is the leadership? Can't anybody publish a legitimate site without the propaganda targeted at highschool dropouts to provide some information? Micheal Moore is not information. Gossip columns about Bush meeting with people who openly and publicly disown Osama bin Laden is not information. John Stewart is roughly 1200% more effective at getting Kerry into the White House than ANYTHING I've seen the Democrats do in the last 18 months.

    Oh well, off-topic rant disengage!

  • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @12:47PM (#9413687) Journal
    The thing being fixed by electronic voting is the vote itself. Previously, election manipulation was too messy and risky. Look at the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Some people almost got caught fixing that election, and it took the Supreme Court stepping in to smooth things over.

    With unverified electronic balloting, the mess and risk is gone. Deposit the right amount in the correct Diebold swiss bank account, and any election is yours.
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @01:05PM (#9413808)
    The only place I have seriously seen this issue covered is on the internet, the only place that isn't owned by some big multinational that owns every news outlet

    How about foreign media? I haven't been looking, but if enough foreign media publically ridiculed the US electronic voting machines, maybe something would filter back over here? Imagine reporters from The Times (London, not New York) and the BBC askng pointed questions during Whitehouse press conferences...

    One badly designed ballot and suddenly we need to implement a whole electronic voting initiative?

    I wonder if it occurs to anyone else that that might be exactly why the ballot was badly designed? One way to make something bad more palatable is to make the alternatives look worse. Still haven't heard a good argument against pencil-and-paper ballots, though...

  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @01:14PM (#9413871)
    I am not sure if this is a troll, but I will respond anyway. If you are the CEO of a company that provides election services, you should not be biased one way or the other. You should not promise to deliver a state to a particular party if you provide the election services, period. That takes away respectability from the whole project and makes people think "why should I bother voting, these corrupt bastards are just going to rig the election so that their buddies win". I suppose the whole concept of conflicts of interest has gone out the window. Case in point Cheney and Scalia's duck hunting trip.
  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @01:17PM (#9413896) Homepage
    For a country that has always held itself to be the shining, guiding light of democracy, this next election is going to be one helluvan embarassment.

    There are undoubtedly going to be significant voting scandals -- again -- and the USA will become the laughingstock of the world.

    And the real shame of it is, it's not that the people of the USA are individually a bunch of buffoons. Given the choice, the individual citizens would love to have a voting system that actually works.

    But the US government is determined to prove itself clueless and useless. How frustrating!
  • by Kickstart70 ( 531316 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @02:14PM (#9414235) Homepage
    And yet, there are people who say Bush won and all is fair and good in the grand old USA...god. I'm up here in Canada (married to a sweet Alabama girl who left the US to be with me), watching the disintegration of a beautiful concept via apathy and greed.

    Here's the questions I want answers to, in regard to the last election:
    - Were thousands of voters disenfranchised due to improper discounting of their right to vote (based on similar names to criminals)? It appears that we can say pretty definitely that the answer is yes.
    - Were there voting improprieties that gave nonsensical answers for final vote tallies? I'd say the -16022 vote count against Gore is a pretty good sign that this is the case.
    - Did the Supreme Court illegal (anti-constititionally) step in to make a decision in Florida? Again, the answer appears to be yes, based on the clarity of constitutional law.

    Those three are enough for me to wonder why there aren't people screaming in the streets STILL! Can anyone give me a good counter to the above Q&As that has nothing to do with the individual personalities or leadership qualities of Bush or Gore?
  • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday June 13, 2004 @02:31PM (#9414327) Homepage Journal

    How can he be RE-elected when he wasn't elected the first time?

    Don't be silly. He was most definitely elected. The Electoral College voted, and he got a clear majority.

    Now, you can argue about whether or not Florida's electors cast their votes properly in accordance with Florida state law, but it's simply untrue to say Bush wasn't elected president of the USA. He was.

  • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:47PM (#9416057)
    "To address the first issue.. sure, stupid people..maybe they should be excluded from voting altogether."

    No, stupid people should be allowed to vote as long as they learn to to do it correctly. Sample ballots are usually widely available before the election in newspapers and the like so you can walk through it with help if necessary.

    Bringing the Palm Beach ballot in to this is a red herring. Those ballots were in a machine too, albeit a simple one, but it was badly designed too. The original suggestion was a simple piece of paper, where you put an X next to the name which is what Canada, Britain and lots of other places do. You can't get any simpler and the KISS principal applies here. If you screw up and mis-vote then yes, you get disenfranchised but its YOUR FAULT. This is where personal responsibility comes in which the modern world seems loathe to require of people any more.

    I don't care how many ways you try to justify it. If you are relying on complex hardware and software to count your votes its always going to be easy for someone to screw with it. Again the only people who will even have a chance to keep an eye on it are us hackers and we know we aren't to be trusted.

    Anyone can audit an election with paper ballots and I like that, so do all the little old ladies and gents who like to work at polling stations. Yes there will be counting errors but anytime you have an election that is close enough for the margin of error to matter you can count the ballots until you are sure you have it right.
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday June 13, 2004 @11:54PM (#9417241) Homepage Journal

    And, so, what I hate about the soundbite expression "Get over it, Al Gore lost" was that it stopped debate and forced the result through.

    I think you fail to appreciate just how important it was to stop the "debate". Such debates, historically, have a very nasty way of ripping nations in two. In an extremely close election, like we had in 2000, you could spend years finding various inaccuracies and problems -- on both sides, because both sides play that game just as hard as they think they can get away with it.

    Think about what might have happened:

    Al Gore refuses to accept the Supreme Court decision, and insists that he GWB was not the legally-elected president. The Democratic party backs him, and Democrat legislators, both state and Federal, alternately storm out and filibuster, halting all useful (well, such as it is) lawmaking work. Both sides scour the Florida election results, looking for any hint of wrongdoing that might accrue to the other side. As the debate descends into more and more trivial minutiae, tensions rise, tempers flare and positions solidify to the point where rational discussion is no longer even relevant. The inquisition heads off into the results in every state that was marginally close.

    The situation drags on until inauguration day and Clinton announces that since the election has not been decided, it's necessary for him to retain the post in a sort of regency until the situation can be straightened out. The Republicans disagree and hold an inauguration ceremony for Bush anyway, with the support of the US Supreme Court.

    With two men claiming to be the president and commander-in-chief, and a third claiming that he really should be the Leader of the Free World, government employees refuse to act on anyone's orders until "the situation is clarified". The military is badly divided. Some of the military leadership begins discussion the need for the military to take control of the country until the civilian leadership can be ironed out.

    Then, some crackpot Gore supporter shoots a prominent Republican, other crackpots in the Bush camp return the favor and the situation turns violent, with massive riots in low-income areas of cities. The National Guard is called in to suppress the riots, but dissension in the ranks creates internal conflict, which again turns violent. Bush overreacts and declares martial law. Clinton, who still lives in the White House, denies that Bush has the authority to do so. Gore calls on the military to actively oppose Bush-controlled martial law, and most of the military agrees with him because they think it's a bad idea, but much of the military sides with Bush because the USSC says he's the president.

    The situation continues to degrade until the country finally slips into another civil war, which devastates the national and world economies.

    Okay, I'll stop there, because I don't really think that scenario is likely. Mainly because people didn't (and don't) really care enought about either Bush or Gore to go to war for them.

    HOWEVER, the point is that even if the scenario doesn't seem realistic, things like it have happened many, many times in history, and there's no way to know for CERTAIN that they wouldn't have happened in 2000. From a historical perspective, we probably ought to be holding our breath at every change of administration, waiting to see if power really will be turned over. Back in 1797, most of the world was shocked that George Washington announced, and then followed through on, his intention to step down as president. People don't often voluntarily give up such authority.

    No, I think that in the case of a closely contested election the best possible action is to follow the law as closely as possible and as quickly as possible to select and swear in a new leader. That does create a risk of selecting the wrong on

VMS must die!